US Congress Holds Open Hearing on Alleged Abuses in Indonesian Papua

US Congress Holds Open Hearing on Alleged Abuses in Indonesian Papua

Jakarta Globe, 23 September 2010


The United States Congress on Wednesday held an open hearing on Indonesia’s alleged military abuses in Papua as well as the harsh economic, health and social condition of its people.

The inquiry, staged in Washington DC on Wednesday afternoon local time, heard testimonies from a number of Papuans and academics, including Nicholas Simeone Messet, a former member of the Free Papuan Movement (OPM).

Henkie Rumbewas, an international advocate for the Australia West Papua Association told the US Congress, chaired by Congressman Eni Faleomavaega, that the Indonesian military was largely responsible for the deaths of many of his closest colleagues and family members.

Rumbewas, who now resides in Australia, said that he saw his father taken to prison for treason when he was only seven, while two of his uncles were kidnapped by the military after being persuaded to surrender their armed struggle against the Indonesian government.

“The two uncles mentioned above are just examples of many other West Papuans in other areas who lost their lives during Indonesian military operations in the early 1960’s,” he said, adding that the fate of his uncles was unknown.

However, it was the death of a close friend, Arnold Ap, which sparked him to speak out against human rights abuses in Papua in the international arena.

“The military government saw that Arnold Ap was promoting the Papuan culture and that it was popular among the West Papuan people. In April 1983, Arnold was murdered along with his cousin Eduard Mofu and two other West Papuans in his [music] group,” he said in his testimony.

“Their bodies were badly tortured, burnt, and thrown on the beach near the town of Jayapura. The military perpetrators of this crime were promoted following this murder.”

In her testimony before the Congress, Eben Kirksey from the City University of New York highlighted the failure of the special autonomous status granted by Jakarta in 2001 to suppress calls for independence after the fall of former president Suharto in 1998.

Kirksey said that the status had failed to create stability in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, instead leaving Papuans marginalized due to lack of education, access to health and equal work opportunities.

Octovianus Mote, president of the Papua Resource Center, said the law stipulating special autonomy, drafted after hundreds of Papuan representatives met former president BJ Habibie in Jakarta in 1999, did not meet aspirations of the Papuans.

“Earlier drafts of the bill contained many specific provisions that were lost in the final version,” Mote told the inquiry. “The final autonomy bill kept the status quo with respect to security policy. The police and military forces in West Papua continue to operate without any direct civilian oversight.”

Autonomy was designed to give larger economic independence and meant that a large portion of the royalties received from the logging and mining industries were channeled back to the province.

A recent study by the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, however, said money that was supposed to be allocated to health and education expenditure was swallowed up in public servants’ wages, in buildings and even in funding local military operations.

Papuan activists held rallies in Makassar, South Sulawesi and Jakarta on Thursday morning as the hearing took place in Washington.

Two students in Wamena, Papua, were arrested on Wednesday afternoon for distributing flyers about the rallies, it was alleged.